Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Superman, Batman and Soteriology

DC—unlike its major counterpart Marvel—is pretty much known for two characters. Sure, the Comic Geek will point out the likes of Wonder Woman or Green Lantern, but those are really minor characters with a small following compared to the two big guys: Superman and Batman. And, whereas most superhero stories seem to revolve around a person obtaining some special power and using it for good (or evil) these two are unique in their stories (or at least the originators that inspired all the imitators.) Even more interesting: from the perspective of faith they are both stories wrapped up in the human problem of sin and the need for a savior. They are soteriological stories.

In its purest forms, the Superman story is messianic. Kal-el is sent to earth by his father. He lives among humanity and he is on a mission to help it. He is perfect, incorruptible and pretty close to omnipotent. (That is the big problem with Superman—no dramatic tension.) Of course the parallels to the Biblical Christ break down when viewed too closely. Superman is not truly human. Superman saves some people from harm temporarily, but he is not intended to be a sacrifice for all humanity. Etc, etc. In fact, when you look closely, Superman is more of an ideal for humanity. He is less Christ and more moral example. Maybe less Messiah and more empowered believer?

Batman, on the other hand, is all human. He doesn’t even have super powers, just super determination. He is a man on a mission to make a better world. He fights injustice. He has incredible standards. He too is incorruptible. However he has to deal with his own limitations and weaknesses. If Superman is the empowered Christian, Batman is the sinner struggling to find sanctification. He is someone we can understand and with whom we can more easily identify.

Both stories do teach however, and they are both explicitly about this theme of salvation. It is not a coincidence that both men are trying to live up to the memory of—to satisfy the perceived wishes of—absent fathers. This is a literary/earthly parallel for the “itch” that all people have to reconcile the broken relationship with the Creator God, whether they recognize it or ignore it.

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